As the school year was approaching, I talked to several other moms that are concerned about nutrition about what their kids would be doing for lunch. Last year in Kindergarten, the girls took a homemade lunch almost every day. About once a month, we have something come up where we just can’t get it together that morning and we let them buy lunch at school that day. But, we check the menu online and talk to them about what choices are the better ones and emphasize the white milk, not chocolate milk, rule. Also, my husband or I have lunch at school with the girls about once every couple of weeks, so we are familiar with how the lunchroom is set up and the procedures.
There are lots of options here. We have the Laptop Lunches system and this is the second year we are using our set. I also have a Laptop Lunchbox and that is what I bring when I eat lunch at school with them. This is the one my daughter Julia, who loves PURPLE, has:
The good thing about the system is that it lets you create a lunch with no unnecessary wasted packaging. I watched a little girl in my daughters’ class today eat her Lunchable and it was shocking how much trash it generated (not to mention the questionable nutritional value). She also had trouble opening some of the individual packages inside. We also use cloth napkins that I wash; got about 20 of them for very cheap in the Michael’s clearance bin last year.
The downside of the Laptop Lunches system is that the initial cost for the Laptop Lunches system is a little steep, Pre-K and Kindergarten kids may have trouble opening the main compartment themselves, and with four kids, we can almost fill the dishwasher each evening with just their lunchboxes and inside containers. So, sometimes, I use the lunch containers from Ziploc. They are very cheap (like $2.50 for a 2-pack) and you can re-use them several times. They are liquid-tight, so I can put yogurt in one of the compartments with no leaks. They also fit well inside our Laptop Lunches insulated carrier bag.
Beverages and Food
Their school does provide a water dispenser with cups for kids that want water instead of milk. The drink we send everyday is what they would have if they were eating at home which is organic white milk. The Laptop Lunches bottle holds 12 oz., we just put in 4 oz. of milk. When we put in more, they don’t drink it all. We try to limit juice to a special treat since it is really just sugar water. So, juice is something they get maybe 2-4 times a week as a treat when they are with us, not as part of a meal. I also do use juice (grape or apple) to make homemade jello (using unflavored gelatin) so they also get some then.
Our lunches generally consist of a main dish that is either a meat/cheese roll-up using nitrate-free turkey or ham and real cheese or an egg salad or tuna salad sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread; plain yogurt with honey; some cut-up fruit; and some kind of veggie (either broccoli slaw, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks or snow peas, etc. sometimes with homemade ranch dressing or hummus). The laptop lunchbox has 2 big sections and 2 small sections, so 4 items works out well for them.
The Laptop Lunches website has a photo gallery with lots of ideas for what to pack for lunch. You also get a little booklet with the box. Our lunches are a bit monotonous, but the kids don’t seem to mind. When I have tried pasta salads or things like that to make it more interesting, they don’t eat them. But, they will eat these same things at home, so go figure.
Sometimes, we do put dinner leftovers in, if it is something that can be eaten cold, for example, leftover grilled chicken breast strips. There is no way for them to heat up any of the meal, so we always pack a cold lunch. We just used the re-usable ice packs to keep the food cold until lunch. I have tried a couple of different thermoses for soup, but have not been impressed with any of them.
What are you packing for your kid’s lunch this year?
8/31/2011 Update: These are a few of the lunches we packed for the girls this week: